Friday, 9 April 2021

Clinic Deluxe Edition

The Game

Clinic is designed by Alban Viard, who did Town Center, which I enjoyed. Some aspects of Clinic are similar to Town Center. Here, you build and run your own clinic, making sure you have the right equipment and recruit the right staff to be able to treat patients. You make money by successfully curing patients. One important way of scoring points is by spending the profits you make every round. At the end of the game, you also score points for your staff and some aspects of your clinic. 

Every player has his own player board. This is your piece of land on which you can build your clinic. This above is the basic version, where you have a 3x4 grid. The advanced version uses a 3x3 grid. This player board allows you to build on the ground floor and the first floor. You can build higher than this. Just get an extension board. However the higher you build, the higher the cost. You build your clinic tile by tile. Think of your clinic as being constantly under renovation. Every room type has its own rules and restrictions. For example, every floor only allows one service hub, which determines the kind of medical service that whole floor offers, like psychiatry or cardiology.  Treatment rooms must be connected to both a service hub and a supply room in order to function. The service hub must be on the same floor, but the supply room need not be. 

The game is played over 6 rounds. Every round, every player gets to perform only 3 actions. So you will have exactly 18 actions in the whole game. There are only 3 action types: Build, Recruit and Admit (as in admitting someone to a hospital). Players simultaneously decide which type to execute. If you pick different actions, you generally won't affect one another. However if you pick the same action, they will need to be performed in player order, and you may end up fighting over the same resources. The player earlier in turn order will have an advantage. 

The game board looks complex, but once you understand it, you will realise it is just a comprehensive reference sheet. It shows all the relevant information about the three action types, and also lists all the administrative tasks you need to perform every round. 

Once everyone has completed his 3 actions for a round, you have to move your staff and patients to legal spots. Normally you will be sending them to treatment rooms, operating theatres or outpatient rooms, so that the patients can be treated. Movement takes time. Time spent moving people about is recorded throughout the game, and at game end you will lose points based on how much time you've spent. This is usually a big chunk, so time management is an important aspect of the game. To reduce time spent, you will heavily rely on your conveyor network. You build conveyor stations all over your clinic. Movement of people between conveyer stations is free, i.e. taking no time. 

The middle column in the photo above lists all the things you do in phases 2 and 3 of a round. Phase 2 is making money. You earn fees for treating patients. The more severe the illness of the patient, the more he pays you. If you are not able to treat a patient, the severity of his illness increases at the end of the round. The severity of an illness has 4 stages, with white being the mildest stage, followed by yellow, orange and red. Red means the guy is about to die. If untreated, the patient dies, and you will lose 5 victory points, which is a lot. One funny thing about this game is you can intentionally not treat a patient, let his condition worsen, and then treat him next round to make more money. I'm not sure if that's always a good idea. If you can treat him now, and treat another patient next round too, that may work out to be better. 

After making money, you have to pay for your expenses, i.e. the salaries of your staff, and the maintenance costs of your facilities. 

Doctors are divided into four grades, similar to the patients. Red doctors are the highest grade. They command a higher salary, and can treat red patients. However they can't by default treat patients in milder conditions. Specialist doctors can't treat the common cold. You need nurses to adjust the doctor's skill level. E.g. a red doctor, if supported by two nurses, can adjust his skill down to yellow, and treat a yellow patient. Similarly, a yellow doctor can be supported by two nurses, to adjust his skill upwards, to treat a red patient. 

There are 5 types of medical services in the game: psychiatry, cardiology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, and neurology. The number of types in play depends on the player count. The cubes are the patients. This photo above shows an appointment book. You come here to grab patients for your clinic, using the Admit action.  

At the bottom right, that piece with the yellow arrow is an entrance. This is one way staff and patients enter the clinic. Stepping in from the entrance to the room next to it takes 1 minute. Walking from room to adjacent room within the clinic also takes 1 minute. The grey cylinders are conveyor stations. Moving from one station to another orthogonally or vertically costs no time. That means my orange doctor on the first floor only needs 1 minute to move from outside to where he is now. Moving from the entrance into the clinic takes 1 minute. Moving one step to the adjacent (orange) treatment room takes no time because he uses the conveyor. Moving one floor up to the (blue) special room (lab) takes no time, because he is using the conveyor again. So in total he only needs 1 minute. The conveyor network is crucial in saving you time. 

One other important aspect of the game is parking. Every staff member and patient drives a car when coming to the clinic, and must find a place to park. If there is no parking spot left, they cannot come. Cars can be parked in car parks, if you have built any. They can also be parked on the edges of the squares of your board. If they are parked on an edge of a square, that square cannot be used for construction of rooms. Cars cannot be moved about freely. You get to remove them only when a patient is cured and goes home, or when a patient dies and a family member drives the car away. In short, every person in your clinic will have one car on your board as well. 

At game end, doctors of different levels and nurses score points (blue hexagon icon). If you have two or three separate buildings, you score extra points. Treatments rooms on the first floor and above score points. If you have any patients not yet cured, you lose points (red hexagon icon). You also lose points based on the total time spent moving people about throughout the game. 

The Play

I did a 2-player game with Allen. At game setup, we only had the psychiatry service. With just two players, other than psychiatry, we would only have cardiology and ophthalmology in the game. In the early game, the only thing we needed to compete to build were the four special modules (blue). There was only one unit in each of the four types, so we had to fight for them. This was our first time playing, so we weren't sure which ones were better. I took a triage module, which reduced my time spent moving, and a lab module, which allowed me to upgrade my doctors. After completing our game, I found both of these to be stronger. I felt I had an advantage due to being lucky and having picked the right ones. However it is also possible that we simply didn't know how to utilise well the two modules Allen picked - the operating theatre and the outpatient room. 

Being a doctor is a highly stressful. Every round, all doctors downgrade one level, and eventually they all become white (i.e. basic) doctors. Doctors become dumber over time! It is a challenge to maintain enough skilled doctors to treat very sick patients. You can recruit new doctors, but you don't want too many doctors. You need to pay them, and you can't fire them. I had the lab, which allowed me to upgrade a doctor by two steps once per round. That helped. 

The overall game flow starts with building your clinic and recruiting staff. When you have the equipment and capability to treat illnesses, you admit patients and cure them, and you make money. You will spend some of the money to buy victory points. You must also spend some of it to expand your clinic, to be able to treat more patients and more different illnesses. Ideally you want to fully utilise your doctors every round. If your staff is idle, it is your problem and not theirs. You still need to pay their salaries every round. 

From the early game, Allen had been troubled by needing to spend much time on movement. By the end of the game, he suffered a large penalty which cost him the game. In the first half, I had a comfortable lead, being able to make money more efficiently. However, towards late game, Allen managed to orchestrate some big turns and made a ton of money. In contrast, I didn't utilise my capabilities fully in the last few rounds. One thing we both underestimated was the need for parking spots. In the final round, we both had to reject patients because there was not enough space for them to park their cars. If we had just upgraded one car park, or built another one, we would have made more money in that final round. We had enough doctors and facilities for those patients. Allen's score overtook mine after the final round, and only dropped behind again when we did the game end scoring and counted the penalty for time spent moving.  

One aspect neither of us managed well was the entrances and helipads. We had only one entrance for most of the game, and only added a second near game end. In hindsight, that was a rookie mistake. Building more entrances and helipads increases the ability to admit more patients. We should have done this earlier. It would have saved us precious actions. 

At this point I had two separate buildings on my campus. The one on the left was the cardiology centre. The one on the right was the original psychiatry centre on the ground floor, and the ophthalmology centre on the first floor. 

That's a garden at the top right. This is a special type of smaller room. The tile is physically smaller. It still allows cars to be parked on its edges. If a garden is adjacent to a treatment room (orange), patients who use the treatment room pay $2 more because of the beautiful view. 

The Thoughts

Clinic is Town Center Advanced to me. Much of the game is figuring out how to build your clinic. There are many restrictions and considerations. You need to think about parking and the conveyor network. In a two-player game, only the special modules need to be fought over. Other than that, you can build at your leisure. With more players, there may be competition to build service hubs, because for each service hub type, only one unit may be built each round. 

You do have to compete to recruit doctors and to admit patients. There is player interaction in these aspects of the game. You are competing for customers. There are many details you need to remember when playing Clinic. It's a coordination game. You must have everything in place for your clinic to function well. In addition to building the rooms and facilities, you also need the right doctors for the right patients, and nurses to support the doctors. Then there's always that doctors getting dumber issue to manage. 

I personally prefer the simplicity in Town Center. I like how concise it is. Clinic does have many more rules, game components and mechanics, but when you look at the soul of these two games, they are not that different. Town Center is almost like an abstract game. Clinic has much more stuff, and is more immersive due to how the many details of the healthcare industry are presented. 


JohnKete said...

I really have a schedule of boredom and hecticness, and one thing I knew for sure is that I need a breather, a long one from all these assignments I have been doing on the run on a daily basis. I knew that if I continued with this routine every day, I would kill my mental health. That is when I realized, I need assignment help in Saudi Arabia, or it's game over for me. Well with all that free time, I may as well start playing clinic.

rita said...

Such a great Post. Thanks so much for sharing!